Posts Tagged ‘Diocese of Arlington’

As the Cardinals prepare for the serious duties of entering the Conclave and choosing the next Supreme Pontiff, the idea of having a new Holy Father any day now is exciting, but also has led us to reflect on the last papacy. We thank Pope Emeritus Benedict for his selfless service to the Church and pray for God’s will to be done in choosing our new Pope. Today, the Diocese of Arlington’s Communications team will reflect on the legacy of His Holiness Benedict VXI, Pope Emeritus, and relate how he personally touched our lives. Please feel free to discuss how Benedict influenced your faith in the comments below.

Seeing Benedict strolling the grounds of Castel Gandolfo makes me realize how influential he was to me as a young Catholic and how his particular style of communication compelled me to delve deeper into my faith. I had hesitations about his election; the media described him as “God’s Rottweiler,” after all. How could I connect on a personal level to someone I perceived as a staunch and rigid Cardinal; we disagreed on modern issues from rock and roll to Harry Potter! I didn’t really feel he was the right person to lead the Church during such uncertain times, especially not when the very principles of the Church were being ridiculed by society and media as bigoted and uncharitable. I thought that such a dogmatic and unyielding leader, in my opinion, couldn’t bring the Church together. Yet that was exactly what Benedict did.

popeEven so, I was happy to have a Pope from Germany, the country of my heritage, and it was particularly delightful to see him in Rome, where, for the first time, I began to read his writings and was amazed at his deep love and invitations to everyone from saint to sinner. Seeing him celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass after reading his encyclical Deus Caritas Est helped me to remove the beam from my own eye in order to see more clearly and without negative judgments. In his papacy, Benedict strove to connect to Catholics, especially young adults, and constantly surprised us by adopting new communications platforms like Twitter. He was one of the oldest elected Popes, but his messages weren’t outdated and his efforts were robust. Even to the end of his papacy, Benedict constantly reached out towards his Church and encouraged us through love. His papacy was, especially for me, inspiring and renewing as he guided the Church back to Christ. “Love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world—this is the invitation I would like to extend with the present Encyclical” (Deus Caritas Est, 39).

-Kathleen Yacharn

My clearest memory of Pope Benedict XVI is burned into my memory – partly because I was literally getting burned in the sun while waiting for a Papal Audience to begin. While I had the blessing of being able to see and hear Pope Benedict a number of times while I was in graduate school at a Pontifical University in Rome for several years, on this day I was sitting up on a dais only 15 feet from the Holy Father.

Why did I get to sit up front with the dignitaries and VIPs? Because my well-connected friend knew that on that very day my grandmother was being buried in the United States and that I was the only family member unable to be at her funeral.  You see, he knew my affection for Benedict – a wise shepherd who was like a scholarly, loving grandfather. I was continually struck by our former pope’s clarity in teaching, his obvious humility and his simple love for God and for beauty. That day I couldn’t be with my earthly family, but I felt so intimately the connection with the Church as I sat at the feet of the Holy Father.

At the end of the audience, Pope Benedict gave the audience attendees and their families a blessing. My grandmother always said that she thought that Heaven would look like St. Peter’s. But on that day, with the always sincere Pope Benedict extending his blessing to my grieving parent, siblings and cousins, St. Peter’s looked like home and the Holy Father seemed like family.
-Caitlin Bootsma

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Six men are in the middle of their first year of studies as seminarians for the Diocese of Arlington. Along with 32 others, these seminarians are immersed in their discernment process, while also studying philosophy and theology and serving at many of our parishes.

Three of the seminarians were asked to share with us what their memorable experiences have been thus far in their formation. Don’t forget to keep them in your prayers as they listen to God’s calling for their lives. Find out more about Vocations in the Diocese of Arlington at www.arlingtonvocations.com.

koehr_seanSean Koehr: “My most rewarding experience in the seminary so far was going on an evangelization mission to Ball State University with my brother seminarians.  Trying to actively participate in the new evangelization enabled me to see the fruits of prayer and study in just a short period of time and it made me hungry for more.  Putting what I am learning into practice by striving to live it and communicate it to others has been a great source of growth and clarity for me.

“Arlington is special because of its youth-filled and zealous priests, as well as its many well-formed and well-educated lay people, who come from strong and generous families.  There is also a great devotion amongst them all for Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of confession, and a great love for Mary.”

majewski_jamesJames Majewski: “I will never forget the day I was told that Bishop Loverde had accepted my application to seminary. To be asked by Christ through His Church to embark upon the journey of priestly formation was an affirmation unlike any other – the consolation of which has truly stayed with me through my studies.

“Seminary life itself is a challenge! But it is such a tremendous blessing to have been accepted to seminary in the Year of Faith, and to be given the opportunity to deepen my faith through nearly every facet of life here. Seminary is so much more than just an education – Christ walks out of the classroom with you.

“Our Diocese has been tireless in fostering my vocation and helping me to discern. The Diocese of Arlington invests so much into her seminarians and future priests, and it is a privilege to be in a position to someday give back to the Diocese I have received so much from.”

schierer_nicholasNicholas Schierer: “40 Hours Devotion leading up to the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo was one of the most rewarding times as a seminarian so far.  For those three days, we had no classes and were able to simply pray during 40 continuous hours of adoration.

“To those who support vocations: Thank you for supporting us. I am praying for all of my benefactors. As seminarians, we are constantly in need to prayers to continue to recognize God’s Will in our continuing discernment of the priesthood.”

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I had an abortion in 1995. The next several years of my life seemed to be a series of one awful thing after the other, it became overwhelming. So many terrible things happened, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

At first I wondered if God was punishing me. Then I realized I could blame God, or I could take responsibility for what I did. It was MY DECISION. God had nothing to do with it, nor did He “punish” me for what I had done. I was punishing myself!!

I had no idea I could be forgiven for such a grave sin. Even though I went to church, it seemed like the priest only talked about “respect for life”, and never spoke about being able to be forgiven after having an abortion. The guilt I felt on Mother’s Day and March for Life weekend at church was incredibly painful.

For many years I wanted to confess my sin, but was afraid … I would not even tell my cousin who is a priest.

Then one day (17 years later), I was in a restroom at a church I was visiting when I saw a paper that read “help after abortion.” As I went on reading the piece of paper that was taped to the wall, it said there is healing and forgiveness after abortion. Even after reading it I thought “Forgiveness??? Really???” At the bottom of the page were tabs to pull off and a phone number to call. I pulled one off, and even then, I was hesitant to call.

After a week or so, I called and spoke with Jo at the Diocese of Arlington. She was so supportive and positive. She told me about Rachel’s Vineyard [our diocesan retreat]. It sounded too good to be true. I signed up to attend the upcoming retreat.

That retreat turned my life around!!

I feel so blessed to have experienced the forgiveness of God, and my retreat was on Divine Mercy weekend. It was amazing. The priest we had at our retreat was a Father of Mercy, and he was such an empathetic, kind man. He was not the priest that was scheduled to be at our retreat, but God sent him to us, and he will stay in my heart forever. What a wonderful man.

The women I met there know more about me than friends I’ve known for years. We stay in touch and we all went to Mass together last month and had a luncheon. We are planning a get together around the Christmas holidays and there is a true bond between us. It’s absolutely wonderful.

I pray that more people who need healing and forgiveness learn about Project Rachel and attend a retreat. It will be the beginning of the rest of your life. You can be forgiven and you can heal. Just let God in. I realized God never meant for me to hurt for all those years, He never did anything to punish me. He loves us. We are His children. Remember, He said: “Come to me, all who are weary.”

Please go to Him if you are weary and He will give you peace. God Bless You.

Note: There is a Project Rachel retreat occurring in Northern Virginia, November 2-4. There are still open spaces if you or someone you know is in search of healing after an abortion.

Diocesan Post-Abortion Ministry provides referral to specially trained priests and/or professional counselors, healing retreats and written materials. For confidential assistance please call 1-888-456-HOPE (4673) or email info@helpafterabortion.org.


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By: Caitlin Bootsma

With the academic year beginning once again and Fall around the corner, schedules are inevitably filling up rapidly. For most of us, especially living in a busy place like Northern Virginia, our hours and minutes are exhausted with work, classes, chores, errands and volunteer work.

If you are like me, it can be a struggle to stay faithful to a commitment to pray every day. Sometimes I get overly ambitious with prayer commitments, only to give up entirely several days later.

Yet, with a life that can often be chaotic, I know that I need to remind myself daily about what is truly important to me – living my life with God. One of the wonderful things about our Faith is the richness of prayer traditions. If you are looking for a way to focus on prayer each day (even if it’s only for a few minutes) here are a few ideas:

(Please add to the list in the comment section!):

  • Praying before leaving the house each morning: I’m always surprised what a difference it can make to stop to pray before rushing out the door. Whether it’s a commitment you make by yourself or with your family, even the action of prioritizing prayer over anything else for a minute or two sets the day on the right track.
  • Daily Mass readings: Even if you do not have the opportunity to attend Daily Mass, the daily readings are available every day on the USCCB website and are a great way to re-familiarize yourself with Scripture.
  • Saint of the day: Perhaps you are someone who is most inspired by real-life examples of heroic virtue. It is easy to bookmark sites that tell us briefly about men and women who overcame great struggles to live lives of virtue. See one site here.
  • Keeping a prayer or reminder near your work space: It can be easy to get distracted at work or to act uncharitably in emails, on phone calls to co-workers etc. Several friends have told me that keeping a prayer card, a quote or a crucifix near their workspace reminds them in a physical way to give their work the attention it deserves and to act with charity to those around them.
  • Praying for intentions at dinner: Many of us say grace before meals, but consider making this the time to pray either silently or as a family for your intentions. Offering  difficulties to God as a prayer often seems to lend perspective to challenges in my life.
  • Examining your conscience each night: I’ve had several priests recommend a daily examination of conscience. Consider thinking over your day each night before you go to sleep, asking God for the grace to do better tomorrow.
  • Stop in and visit Our Lord in the Eucharist: While we attend Mass every Sunday, it’s a great idea to pop into an open church, even if for just 15 minutes once a week, to say “hello” to Our Lord. We often, unplanned, stop to chat briefly with our neighbors, people in the grocery store and our coworkers. In fact, sometimes those brief conversations can lead to insights, laughter or a sense of love. The same will happen with Christ in the Eucharist!

There are many more ways of forming daily prayer habits, please consider sharing some that you have found to be most helpful in your life.

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As you may know from preparation and announcements in your parishes, we will begin to use the new translation of the Mass on the First Sunday of August. The next several months provide us with the opportunity to learn more about the translation and how it will enrich our prayer.

Workshops continue to be offered throughout our diocese that explain why the changes are taking place and what they will entail (You can see a full schedule here).

Since all of us are accustomed to the responses that we have been using for years, the new translation is bound to be a bit of a transition. Therefore, all of the parishes will have pew cards so that it is easy to follow along with the new changes.

While you’ll be seeing them in your parishes soon, below is the pew card that we are using in the Diocese of Arlington.

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By Therese Bermpohl, Director, Office for Family Life

Call it a blowout Catholic Picnic. Call it a festival. Call it a chance to eat good food, listen to great music and enjoy the entertainment of talented local performers.

But no matter what you call it, don’t miss out on this opportunity to celebrate with Catholics from all over the Diocese of Arlington at the third-annual Catholic Family Festival on Saturday Sept. 24, 2011, from 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, Va.

What does the Washington Post have to say about this year’s Catholic Family Festival’s headlining band? “Scythian’s enthusiasm is contagious, and shows seem to end with everyone dancing, jumping around or hoisting glasses.”

This festival promises enjoyment for the entire family. The kids will relish the free games including laser tag, a giant inflatable slide, a moon bounce and face-painting, as parents sample foods from around the globe while listening to the infectious sounds of popular local band, Scythian, of whom the Washington Post writes: “Scythian’s enthusiasm is contagious, and shows seem to end with everyone dancing, jumping around or hoisting glasses.”

Sports enthusiasts can enjoy an organized soccer tournament or play pick-up soccer, Frisbee and football, while shoppers peruse the many vendors and exhibitors who will be selling jewelry, art, and other crafts and collectibles.

Finally, don’t miss out on the opportunity to worship at a Holy Mass celebrated by our own Bishop Paul S. Loverde. The exhilarating Gospel choir from St. Joseph Parish, Alexandria, will sing during the Mass.

With free parking and entry (a donation of $5 per car is suggested) at the beautiful Bull Run Park, this promises to be a day of fun and free activities for the entire family to enjoy. Don’t miss out on the fun!

Things to remember:

Bring cash for food and vendors (there are no ATMs and only some vendors will accept  other forms of payment)

  • Bring a chair or blanket and lots of sunscreen!
  • No pets and no alcohol allowed

For more information on the festival visit our website, www.catholicfamilyfestival.org, or call (703) 841-2550

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact Anne at cff@arlingtondiocese.org

To learn more about vendor opportunities, contact Tom at cff@arlingtondiocese.org

To download a printable flyer, click here.

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By: Susan Gibbs, Office of Communications

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Yesterday’s Washington Post ran a sympathetic profile of late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart. Although he lives in Nebraska, Carhart decided to open shop in neighboring Maryland last year, as the state has virtually no restrictions on abortion.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)

 The article is chilling. We learn that 60 unborn children are aborted every month, six to 10 of them late in pregnancy. He performs abortions up to 32 weeks, which is seven months into a pregnancy. Many children are born that early so why not just help a woman deliver her child? Because he is a man on a mission, a gruesome mission that he has brought to our community. As he tells a reporter, these children have “anomalies,” which is why he aborts them.

 That’s right: he aborts children because they are not perfect. But then again, who of us is?

 How imperfect does a child need to be? He gives an example of one child he aborted who would have been paralyzed from the waist down if allowed to live. Apparently, it is better off to be dead than to be in a wheelchair.

This is the horrific reality of abortion. It is not an easy slogan about “choice.” Abortion is a child who is dead, a mother who is devastated and a world in which people with disabilities are sent the message that their lives are worthless.

 It can be hard to step into the abortion debate, but as people of faith, we must. Not only is it a matter of life and death for the child, it’s also a matter of spiritual death for all those who partake in abortion.

 As Pope Benedict XVI said earlier this year, “It is necessary that the whole of society defend the right to life of the conceived and the true good of the woman, who never, under any circumstance, will be fulfilled in the choice of abortion. In the same way it is necessary … to provide the necessary help to women who sadly have already taken recourse to abortion, and who now experience all its moral and existential tragedy.”

 Please join us as we pray, act and support parents who are in difficult circumstances.


  • The Diocese of Arlington’s Office for Family Life’s Project Rachel Ministry has initiated a 30-day prayer campaign for the intention of healing all those who have participated in abortion. The official novena began on July 16 (Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) and goes until Aug. 15 (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The Project Rachel Office encourages you to choose your favorite Marian prayer, the rosary or the chaplet of divine mercy and pray it each day through Aug. 15.
  • Join the Archdiocese of Washington and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who are cosponsoring the “Summer of Mercy 2.0,” a peaceful, prayerful presence for life July 30-Aug. 7 in Germantown, Md., and Washington, D.C.


  • Make sure you know what is happening in Virginia. If there are any public policy issues to weigh in on, the Virginia Catholic Conference will get the word out. Simply sign up for the VCC Advocacy Network.
  • Consider helping to spread the message of  love and mercy to all those on the road by ordering magnetic bumper stickers from the Arlington Diocesan Office for Family Life’s Project Rachel Ministry. The bumper stickers read, “Help After Abortion, 888-456-HOPE.”  Order online, at projectrachel@arlingtondiocese.orgor (703) 841-2755.

    Bumper sticker from the Arlington Diocesan Office for Family Life’s Project Rachel Ministry.


Parents facing difficult pregnancies need to know we care, and women and men who have been involved in abortions need to know that God loves them and has unending mercy.

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By Rev. Brian Bashista, Office of Vocations

Perhaps priesthood has crossed your mind, but fear pushes the idea away:

  •  My friends would laugh if they heard I was thinking about the priesthood!
  • My parents would be shocked.
  • My mom wants grandkids.
  • I’m scared to death of speaking in public.
  • I’m nowhere near holy enough.
  • I don’t want to give up sex.
  • I’ll be lonely.
  • Seminary may be too hard for me.
  • Being a priest looks boring.

These fears are very common, even for some men who are already in seminary. But literally thousands of men have had the same concerns and then went on to become holy and effective priests.

Fear is a tactic of the enemy to keep you from pursuing God's will.

The first principle to remember is that God does not speak through fear. Fear is a tactic of the enemy to keep you from pursuing God’s will; it is like the bite of an animal that paralyzes its prey to keep it from moving. A man in fear will find it difficult to move toward God’s will.

If you are paralyzed by fear, even if you are pointed in the right direction, you will never get to where God is leading you.

So how do you overcome fear? Here are five ideas:

Turn your fears into concerns. You may have legitimate concerns about celibacy or preaching. Many areas of formation for priesthood require ability, discipline and serious self-knowledge and assessment. You will probably discover areas that need to change and improve. All of that, however, is different than being afraid. You can discern with a cool head and realistic view, but not with a heart full of fear.

Look to scripture for consolation. “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Recall that when Jesus called Peter (Lk 5:1-11), our first pope said, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus then replied, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Likewise, Jesus knows your difficulties and weaknesses, yet he calls. Later, Peter would write, “Cast all your worries upon him, because he cares for you” (I Pt 5:7).

Reflect on God’s love. Fr. Brett Brannen, in his book To Save a Thousand Souls, recommends this meditation when a man feels fearful: “God is infinite in power and he loves me infinitely. There is no snatching out of his hand. God will never send me where his grace cannot sustain me. If he asks me to do something difficult, like become a priest, he will give me the grace to do it. I will not fail because he is with me. And I will be happy because I am doing his will. Even if I lack some of the needed qualities, God will help me develop them. In His will lies my peace.”

Entrust your fears to the Blessed Mother. Recall that after the angel told Mary to “fear not”, she readily she accepted God’s will for her, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Walking in God’s will was not an easy road for Mary, as Simeon prophesied, “You yourself a sword shall pierce.” Yet Mary had the strength to follow her Son because she had “kept all these things in her heart.” Entrust your fears to her intercession, and she will help calm your heart and find the will of Jesus.

Remember what seminary is for. From a purely practical perspective, it’s comforting to know that if God calls you to be a priest, ordination is still years away. Seminary offers a period of serious discernment and intensive formation to help a man address his concerns, grow in holiness, and prepare for an effective priestly ministry. No man enters seminary ready to be a priest! And no man becomes a priest on his own!

So, as Blessed Pope John Paul II reminded us so often throughout his pontificate: Be not afraid! Don’t let fear paralyze you. Instead, address your concerns to God, trust in His word, reflect upon His love, ask for Mary’s help, and remember that you have time. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Fear will never lead you to your vocation, whatever it may be, but only the peace of Christ.

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By: Mariann Hughes, Office of Communications

A friend and I sped into D.C. on a whim the other night with the top down on her fiancé’s Mustang. It was late and we had lots of energy – and promptly ended up perched on the Lincoln Memorial chatting about the complexities of adult decision-making. I know; we are so wild and crazy.

Confusing decisions exist, because, from a moral standpoint, the alternatives could go seemingly either way. That uncertainty, if we are fearful, can cripple us while choosing a path.

How to make the “right” decision in many situations is not, surprisingly, as easy as deciding whether the convertible roof should be “up or down. ” Moral issues, for sure, are clear-cut if we follow the Church. She instructs us well in living virtuously within our families, church and communities. “Be open to life; love your neighbor; honor God; feed the hungry; obey just civil laws and don’t go flying down Constitution Ave. at 90 MPH with the Mustang” are all straightforward instructions.

But sometimes, decisions don’t boil down to “moral” or “immoral.” Confusing decisions exist, because, from a moral standpoint, the alternatives could seemingly go either way. That uncertainty, if we are fearful, can cripple us while choosing a path. However, time marches on. At some point, the waffling must cease and we must decide.

Fortunately, as Catholics, it’s not so much a decision as a discernment of God’s will for our lives. I love the word “discern.”  “Decision” implies the matter is in my hands. “Discern” implies that I see my life choices as a part of God’s plan for me and live them out accordingly.

What are some common discern vs. decide situations?

How about:

  • Should I buy a new house? My family is growing, but extra payments will crimp our finances. Is that prudent?
  • Do I take a promotion? It means more responsibility and hours, but the pay is better and I will be free to pursue my passion. But will my family and social life suffer?
  • Can I afford an advanced education? Is college the path which will make the best use of my talents? Am I an empty-nester who should go back to school or should I relax during my retirement?
  • How soon should I commit to a relationship with a person to whom I am attracted? What if she’s not the person I will ultimately marry and my heart gets broken? Then I’m back to square-one.
  • My husband is sick and I physically can’t take care of him anymore. Do I accept my child’s offer to move into her home? Is helping take care of my ill husband going to be too stressful on my child’s marriage?

People of Faith recognize that life choices are building-bricks on the journey toward holiness and heaven. Do you look back at a time in life and think, “Whoa, I really see the finger of God in that situation?”  It can bring hope to remember those times.

However, it’s a two-edged sword. Maybe we’ve made decisions we regret. “I never want that hurt to happen to me again!” But, we can’t let a skewed desire for perfection paralyze our present-day choices. “What if I’m not doing what God wants me to?” “What if I irrevocably mess up?” “I made the right decision on X a year ago, but am I going to do so now with Decision Z?”

Rather, trust that God will put the events, person and materials in our hands to discern the path. Don’t be crippled by fear! God is bigger than any “mistake” we can think we can make. And we can only control ourselves and our own decisions and the situations we bring to God. We cannot “make” other people follow our path, or our will. We can only live our own lives!

When asked for insight on discernment, Fr. Edward Fassett, S.J., Secretary for Partnership Formation at the U.S. Jesuit Conference in D.C., offers some food for thought:

  • Pray. First, take the whole experience to God.
  • Open up. Then, get past the brain to the heart of the matter. A situation with no clear answer can be rationalized intellectually either way. Instead, look at what is in your heart. If fear is present, what is behind your fear?
  • Learn. Do not be afraid to inform yourself and open your eyes to all aspects and truths of the situation. How much does the house or college tuition cost? Has there been tension with your child before, or do you have a loving relationship? Does the girl you want to date have the qualities you need in a life-long companion? Sometimes, the truth is hard to face, but the discernment process cannot begin before that happens.
  • Be calm. That being said, do not overthink what could happen in the future. You cannot see the future. You can only see the now and learn from your past. Certainly, we must be prudent. But, if a decision seems reasonable and rational, fears of the unknown only delay you.
  • Evaluate. Since this discernment process involves growing in holiness, ask the question, “What gives me life?” We were created, according to St. Ignatius of Loyola to give praise, service and reverence to God. Will this make my life better in regards to fulfilling my reason for creation? Are my reasons to give glory to God?
  • Role play. Give yourself time to assess what your life would be like if you were to make one decision, and see how that sits with you. Alternatively, see how the other choice sits.
  • Choose with peace. A decision can be made between choices of unequal worth, that is, we can choose to commit evil. We have a free will. But true discernment is used between two goods; they do not necessarily have to be equal, but it’s in the discernment that you determine which of those goods will help better achieve your reason for creation.

“Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

After traveling the winding roads to Winchester, I stepped out of my car and into Millbrook High School to see hundreds of tired teenagers, with joyful smiles, socializing in the school hallways. It warmed my heart as they greeted me, their enthusiasm and good nature shining through their faces, their camaraderie with each other apparent and inspiring.

This past week was the first session of the annual WorkCamp, where teenagers and adult supervisors from our diocese dedicate their time and talents to help make local homes safer, drier and warmer for residents in need by performing home repairs. I was blessed to spend Tuesday evening and part of Wednesday with the participants of this program, which is run by the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry.

Bishop Loverde serves up a spoonful of peas to a hungry WorkCamper.

We began Tuesday evening with dinner, where I was privileged to spend some time in the kitchen serving peas in the cafeteria line to the workers after their hot day in the sun. It made me smile that a fair number of the teens told me, with laughter, “Peas be with you, Bishop!”

After sharing the meal, we began an evening of prayer, Confession and Benediction. After some singing, I spoke to the young people emphasizing how much the Lord Jesus loves each of them and urging them to develop and deepen a personal relationship with Jesus Christ within the community of His disciples, the Church.  After a long day of hard work, the teens’ enthusiasm had not lessened – rather, when the availability of the Sacrament of Penance was announced, many of the young people jumped enthusiastically to their feet to stand in line. My brother priests had also traveled from all around the diocese to spend an evening ministering with me to the teens.

WorkCamp teens put the finishing touches on a back porch.

I was moved to see the devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist through their prayer and song. It brought to my mind once again that WorkCamp is so much more than just a week of service; it is an opportunity for young people to come before Our Lord, growing closer to Him and stronger in their lives through the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. They are also given direction and encouragement from speakers and mentors on how to live the spiritual life in the natural world, in particular, by offering a gift of self through acts of service, thereby putting Faith into action

How refreshing to see joy clearly stamped on their faces, whether the young people were eating peas, receiving forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, or pounding nails with hammers at their worksites on Wednesday morning. I visited several homes where crews were busy adding improvements, painting and cleaning up yards. Their happiness and smiles were contagious; the way they conducted themselves brings to mind a Psalm verse: “They will rejoice before God; they will celebrate with great joy” (Psalms 68:4b).

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